Alabama Football: If no Keith Holcombe, more solid depth needed at ILB


If Keith Holcombe sticks with baseball, Alabama football will have a depth issue at inside linebacker. Check out other two-deep ILB options.

No one on the Alabama football staff has made an announcement, but it is looking like Keith Holcombe will use his last year of eligibility playing just baseball. Holcombe skipped spring football to play baseball. Nick Saban said the last he heard from Keith, he was leaning to concentrating on baseball.

Holcombe was not drafted in the recent MLB draft. He had a solid season in left field for the Alabama baseball team. Holcombe started 45 games and had a .372 on-base percentage, along with 29 RBI’s. Fall baseball is an important development time for college players and playing football and baseball in the same season is not possible.

Even with Holcombe, the Alabama football depth chart at inside linebacker lacks game experience. Keith was the fourth-leading tackler among the inside linebackers last season. The top two, Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton are in the NFL. Among the returning inside linebackers, only Mac Wilson had more tackles (40) last season than Holcombe. Holcombe made 38 tackles, followed by Dylan Moses with 30 tackles.

Holcombe struggled at times to stop the run but he was a tough, smart player. Barring injury the starters at inside linebacker in 2018 will be Wilson and Moses. With the possible loss of Holcombe, the depth behind the starters is a major concern. When asked about the depth issue recently, Nick Saban said,

"I’m not comfortable at any position on our team relative to the depth that we had … we will try to develop and create whatever we have to do to try to develop depth at any position on our team. If it involves moving players, if it involves trying to enhance the development of younger players, then that’s what we’ll do."

The Inside Linebacker Backups

Without a position change, the guys who will compete for the two-deep at inside linebacker are Josh McMillon; Ben Davis; Markail Benton and Jaylen Moody. McMillon is a redshirt junior with limited playing experience. Former 5-Star recruit, now redshirt sophomore, Ben Davis has so far not proven himself equal to his high school reputation. Benton saw no action last season and is a redshirt freshman. Jaylen Moody is a true freshman.

VanDarius Cowan worked at inside and outside linebacker during his 2017, freshman season. Cowan saw little game action. He would be a natural fit to settle in at inside linebacker. The problem with Cowan is the persistent rumor he is regularly in Saban’s doghouse. An even worse rumor is Cowan will be suspended for four-six games in the 2018 season.

If Cowan cannot be counted on, who else can be moved inside? Redshirt senior Jamey Mosley and sophomore Chris Allen are two possibilities. It has not always been the case for Mosley, but both now have enough size to be run stoppers. If 5-Star signee Eyabi Anoma is as ready as he is talented, he will rotate on the edge with Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller. Either Lewis or Miller could do double-duty as an outside and inside linebacker.

Saban will explore options

Nick Saban has some options with the current roster. In addition, he may still add a transfer or JUCO inside linebacker to the 2018 roster. The brother of 2019, 5-Star RB, Trey Sanders is a possibility. Umstead Sanders is verbally committed to Florida. The older Sanders is an inside linebacker and he played at Hinds Community College. The brothers visited Tuscaloosa recently.

If Umstead joins the 2018 Tide, all other schools will claim it is only a ploy to later sign Trey Sanders. Alabama football needs inside linebacker depth. Adding a JUCO is a reasonable solution. That potential JUCO signee being the brother of one of the top, 2019 recruits might be a coincidence.

Next: 2019 class can be a 5-Star bonanza

Keith Holcombe could still decide to play football again in 2018. If he believes he has a chance in professional baseball, giving up football is probably the correct decision.